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Flames players and coach applaud netminder for stellar performance

by GEORGE JOHNSON @georgejohnsonCH /

It won't be hung in the Louvre or the Uffizi Gallery.

There can in the right circumstances, though, be a kind of artistry, too, in resilience, in sacrifice, in hanging tough and surmounting when things get tough. 

The colours on that palate may be predominantly shades of black and blue, not bright, brilliants reds and yellows, but there can be much to admire in the brushwork anyway.

"I was really proud of the guys,'' announced difference-maker Brian Elliott. "We weren't proud of the way we played that last game.

"We knew we were better than that. I think the guys showed it tonight."

Desperately in need of a bounce-back from Monday's dismal 5-0 pasting by the Arizona Coyotes, the Flames called upon resolve and tenacity, not inspiration and panache, to barricade the door and slide past the Philadelphia Flyers 3-1.

For much of Wednesday night's tilt, the locals found themselves lashed to the mast as an south-easterly squall raged relentlessly around them.

Somehow, though, with Elliott at the rudder, making 33 saves, they survived the tempest and steered the ship into calmer waters.

"Thank God,'' said Matthew Tkachuk, speaking for the group, "we had Moose back there."

Wednesday was arguably Elliott's finest performance of the season.

"He was dialled in all night long,'' praised coach Glen Gulutzan of his puck-repeller. "Right to the bitter end.

"For me, sometimes we weren't very good as a group, our skaters. We talked about how you're trying to get out of something, trying to get some momentum, your goalie can change things for you.

"This was a game our goalie won."

If anything epitomized Calgary's stubborn determination to overcome, it had to be an extended 5-on-3 penalty kill 7:41 into the first period.

Having countered an early Flyer goal, Flames' winger Alex Chaisson, exiting at the end of a shift, gave Flyers' centreman Nick Cousins a jab with his stick blade.

Silly, yes. Malicious, hardly. However, Chiasson was given a five-minute major and game misconduct for spearing. 

"It's not,'' declared Gulutzan, "a smart play. It's in plain sight so it's a penalty. Sometimes you tie the ref's hands, right?

"Lots of games in this league I've seen it called a slash."

Bad then went from bad to worse after three minutes of clean kill when Sean Monahan fired the puck out of play, drawing a delay of game minor.

Faced with staving a nearly two-minute 5-on-3 deficit, Calgary penalty killers hunkered down and backstopped by Elliott.

"I think everybody's energy level, the crowd and us included, was way better than Monday,'' said Elliott.

"The 5-on-3, we did an exceptional job. Guys blocking shots. Engo (Deryk Engelland) came up with a couple of huge ones.

"You kind of buy yourself a little time (with the kill). You got out unscathed and that's all you really want. The guys did a great job. It kinda messes with the momentum a little bit. Guys missing shifts who don't kill penalties. A lot of powerplay-penalty

"But we we did a good job coming out of that.

"That momentum was huge."

Flyers boss Dave Hakstol agreed.

"That's one pivotal point of the game where obviously we could've pushed the game back in our favour, in our direction,'' he lamented.

"We didn't win enough puck battles. Those initial puck battles on our powerplay are a strength of ours and tonight we didn't win very many of those … even on the 5-on-3."

Knotted 1-1 as the third period opened - Cousins for for the Flyers, Matthew Tkachuk for the Flames - Elliott continued to play the denial game.

Philly left winger Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, finding too much room down Main Street, managed to control a skipping pass but a nimble flick of Elliott's left pad rebuffed that clear and present danger.

That save provide crucial as Tkachuk - as pleasant to opponents as the outbreak of psoriasis - then slipped a pass back to the point to Brodie, whose shot to the short side, aided immeasurably by Sam Bennett's screen, eluded Michal Neuvirth.

"I look at that goal,'' critiqued Gulutzan, "and (Tkachuk) made a great play, Brodes made a great shot but the thing we're going to value tomorrow is Sam Bennett standing in front, fighting his way there so the goalie couldn't see it.

"We've talked a lot about that, about getting to the trenches and getting into the ugly areas. Benny's really grabbed a hold of that.

"I loved the play, I loved the shot but the guy (who) didn't get the point deserved some credit."

The goal was Brodie's first in 23 games, dating back to Dec. 19th at Arizona.

"When we get a lead,'' said Brodie, "we've got to learn how to keep it. Down the stretch that's going to be big."

So, it goes without saying, will be goaltending.

"He was huge,'' lauded Brodie of Elliott. "Made a lot of key saves at big moments in the game.

"He definitely stole that one for us."

To emphasize his invaluable contribution to the evening, Elliott came up with another sharp save on Flyer defenceman Shayne Gostisbehere's GPS shot through a tangle of legs and skates, allowing skipper Mark Giordano to fling a clearance down the ice and into the vacated Philly net at 19:21.

No debating who deserved No. 1 star status.

"We took on a lot of water,'' acknowledged Gulutzan. "A lot of water.

"We started this conversation with our goalie and things could've been a lot different without him."



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